“Recollection, absorption, meditation, constant remembrance and trance are the five items of progressive krsna-smarana. At first remembrance of Krishna may be interrupted at intervals, but later remembrance proceeds uninterrupted.” – Srila Prabhupada (Nectar of Instruction, Verse 8)
This step helps us view God as a person, a sentient being who listens and waits for us. He is pleased to reciprocate our devotion. To experience His reciprocation, I need to communicate with Him as a person and promise Him, as I would to a person in this world, something specific that I will do for His pleasure.
Step – 5 – EXECUTION – Follow up on the promise
Inspiration strikes like a flash, with great intensity, but it can just as quickly disappear. That’s why step 4 is crucial – it helps us capture the inspiration by making a promise, allowing the spiritual motivation to linger a little longer in our consciousness. However, the mind can be fickle and easily jump to something unholy with equal ferocity, causing us to forget the promise we made to Krishna in no time.
This is where step 5 comes into play – it plays a critical role in our efforts to experience God. In my own experience, I tried to appreciate some of my friends, and when I genuinely did it, I knew I was building my self-worth and improving my relationship with God. I was honouring my word, and I felt happy and grateful for the opportunity to fulfil my commitment to Krishna.
However, soon enough, the pressure of many ‘things to do’ and various other commitments took its toll. I forgot my obligation to Krishna and became busy with many other activities. Occasionally, I did remember, but the intensity of my work led to instant forgetfulness of my purpose and relationship with Krishna.
When I finally reached the temple as scheduled forty-eight hours later, I just didn’t remember my promise. I met a few friends in the temple and carried on with my other activities. It wasn’t until later, while talking to a friend, that I suddenly remembered I had not fulfilled my promise. I felt a sense of failure – I had let myself and Krishna down. My mind quickly dismissed the commitment exercise to Krishna as futile.
For many weeks after that, I never made any promises to Krishna. It seemed like the process didn’t work.
But then I realized that I had missed the most important sixth step of the process.
Step – 6 – Return and report – Being accountable to God
Years ago, a student promised to chant four rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra on his beads daily, but then soon after that he stopped attending my classes. Three months later, he called to tell me he had been chanting for the past week. I was happy to hear from him and asked how he had been doing. He explained that he had avoided me because he felt like a failure for not fulfilling his promise. I reassured him that it was okay and that he wasn’t obligated to chant a certain number of rounds daily.
This reminded me of my own experience with Krishna when I failed to honour my promise to appreciate five devotees. We often avoid people who make us feel bad about ourselves, and when we fail to keep a promise, we fear judgment. However, God is not like the fallible and judgmental people of this world. He doesn’t judge us if we fail to honour our promises to Him. He is happy when we return to Him.
That’s why the sixth step, “return and report,” is the most important. When we come back to Krishna, we feel His love. Especially when we think we have failed, and yet we return and explain what happened and how we still love Krishna and want to honour our promise to Him, we experience non-judgmental acceptance. This is why God is glorified across all traditions for millennia – He’s the only one who loves us despite all our failures.
“To strengthen our relationship with God, we need some meaningful time alone with Him.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf
To be continued…